Election 2008

Clinton Paints Herself as the 'Everyday American'

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New York Sen. Hillary Clinton pumps gas with a voter in Indiana. i

Clinton pumps gas while commuting to work with Jason Allen Wilfing in South Bend, Ind., on Wednesday. Christina Jamison/NBC via AP hide caption

toggle caption Christina Jamison/NBC via AP
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton pumps gas with a voter in Indiana.

Clinton pumps gas while commuting to work with Jason Allen Wilfing in South Bend, Ind., on Wednesday.

Christina Jamison/NBC via AP

Sen. Hillary Clinton may be a millionaire, but she has been perfecting the art of seeming like an everyday American —someone who understands the needs of working people.

She's stepped up her efforts recently, portraying her rival for the Democratic presidential nod, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, as elitist as she tries to win over voters in the blue-collar state of Indiana.

Her "normal American" strategy in Indiana was evident one night at a bar in Crown Point, where she ordered a shot of whiskey. At first, she sipped the Crown Royal from her shot glass. Then, the New York senator knocked back the rest. Since then, she has been on a feverish campaign to convince people that she is one of them.

This tactic has worked well in states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, where working-class voters came out for Clinton in huge numbers. But in the final days before Indiana's May 6 primary, Clinton is working harder than ever to listen to people and make them feel comfortable.

Blue-Collar Issues

During a recent "kitchen table conversation" in northwest Indiana, Clinton sat in voter Johnnie Parker's dining room and chatted about gas prices with his family.

"I used to see people pump gas, buy lottery tickets and buy chips or something," said Parker, who works at a sheet metal company. "Now all I see is people paying basically with their credit cards, and it's just pump their gas and they're out the door."

Clinton went around the table asking everyone to discuss their problems. Parker's wife, Peggy, has been battling an illness. His brother, Randy, is out of work. Clinton asked both about their health and health care.

Working-Class Values

At each campaign stop in the Hoosier State, Clinton has talked policy detail and tried to show she can connect. To quash any doubts, Clinton has been running this ad:

"My father served in the Navy and ran a small business," she says. "My mother taught Sunday school and took care of us. I come from Park Ridge, Ill., benefiting from all their hard work and sacrifice."

Although Clinton grew up in an affluent neighborhood, she has been focusing on her father's small business, a printing plant.

She described it to workers at a wood-manufacturing plant in Indianapolis, saying the time she spent at her father's business grounded her.

Voters such as Linda Popp of Princeton, Ind., have been responding to Clinton's message.

Popp heard the senator speak at a town square rally in Princeton. She says her husband is in the coal business, and that she has been staying home to take care of her sick mother. To Popp, Clinton's talk rings true.

"At first I used to listen to Obama, honestly, and I really don't hear anything [about] what he's going to do, like Hillary," Popp said. "She talks the way it should be."

And Clinton knows voters like Popp may be her best chance for victory in Indiana.

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